Good morning, Infosphere!
Over the past few months, I’ve been wanting to set up “Metathink Mondays.” Essentially, once a week, post an insight or a question that we can all ponder and reflect upon, in the service of making us smarter. Then, I’ll collect all the feedback, assemble it into another post or ebook that would be like an ‘insight report’ for all of us. We’ve done this once before, but I know we’ve all grown since then, so I’d like to revisit the topic.
So, if you haven’t been following along here, I’ve been working on this concept I’ve dubbed “metathinking,” or “a way of figuring out what the hell is going on.” We’re surrounded by all these streams of information, complexity, and accelerating change, and just trying to find a way to keep up. Well, there’s no way of “keeping up” – it’s flowing and it’s only getting faster. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel that will keep us from drowning. As Clay Shirky put it, “It’s not Information Overload. It’s Filter Failure.” While the programmers and engineers improve the quality of search, we need to be doing the same – but not with code, with people.
The way I define metathinking is “employing critical thinking through a multitude of frameworks in order to identify weak signals, make connections, and solve problems.” It’s a working definition, but for anyone out there doing ‘knowledge work,’ this is the final frontier folks – not outer space, but the 6 inches God gave us from ear to ear. If we want to be competitive today, we need to spend focused time learning how to unleash the power of our minds.
I think a huge part of this process is in learning how to harness the power of networks, and that’s the purpose of today’s post. Though I called it ‘The Power of Twitter,’ it’s not really about Twitter at all. Twitter is a platform, a communication tool for information exchange. What makes it useful is the people that are pumping info through it, but I didn’t think titling the post ‘The Power of Humans’ would travel as well. What I have found as I’ve experimented over the months is that when used with intention, when assembling our human network in an intelligent way – looking for people to learn from, for strategic alliances, and for insights – Twitter becomes a learning powerhouse. The people with whom you interact end up doing the filtering for you, not only making your tweetstream useful in general, but they’ll even directly send you information that they think you can use to grow. This is the way I’ve been using the platform, trying to provide the best quality, most useful information that I come across, and in turn my peers are returning the favor.
So today’s question is this: How have you benefitted from your Twitter network?
For me, I’m following around 900 people, about 200 who don’t follow me back, but they’re smart or tweet great stuff and I’m interested in what they have to say. There are around 150 that I keep up with in a broad sense – I don’t always speak with them, but I’m ambiently aware of what they’re tweeting and who they’re talking to. And then there are around 30 or so that I communicate with regularly. It happens in open exchange with @replies, via DM, or via conversations that unfold in the comments section here. When there’s a particularly interesting idea still in gestation, we’ll hash it out privately via email. I don’t even know what most of these people directly do for a living, but I know they’re thinkers, change agents, and linchpins. And they make me smarter every day.
As you may know, I’m in grad school right now, researching how technology is impacting society and culture, how it is changing our behavior and the way we think. So ‘thinking about thinking’ is kind of what I do. I clearly find this to be important, and I put in the time and effort to write things here because I want us all to be smarter and better. Unfortunately, the very situation I’m in that gives me the ability to do so much research also puts me on the other side of the wall of practical implementation. My outlet for all of this is here, my insights just feed back into the infosphere, hopefully returning me more insights. What I’d love is some feedback of your experience.
How have the networks and connections you’ve made directly helped you at work? What are specific examples of how information that was shared with you via Twitter (or any social media, really) allowed you to DO something new – create a better experience for a customer, client, student, child, or friend. What are you doing to amplify the social capital within your web of connections?
If you can, take some time to reflect on this, then write a post and share the link in the comments section or just leave the comment here. You might have something in mind already, or maybe you haven’t really thought about this before, in which case – just observe your behavior today. See who is providing you with the links that you click through. Who are these people? Are there certain people that consistently tweet stuff that helps you? Have you helped them back? (I think ‘thanks for RT’ is nice, but even better is when you can show your appreciation for their link by trying to send them one that you think they’d benefit from too). See if by being very observant of how you interact with the people and information, your behavior changes a bit. Maybe you get a little more discriminatory about what you tweet? Maybe you raise the bar on yourself? Maybe you think about who would benefit most from info you come across? (I’m calling this “targeted sharing.”) Maybe you realize that certain people could benefit not just from a link to great information, but by introducing them to great people. (The term being used for this is “network weaving,” [thanks @juneholley] – I try to do it as often as I can, using the hashtag #networkweaving).
I think we can ALL become tremendously more effective in what we’re doing if we think about it and do it with intention. I’m really excited to hear what you come up with, and if you do have an insight, but don’t want to leave a comment or write a post, feel free to tweet your thought with the hashtag #metathink and I’ll aggregate those tweets here as I see them.
Looking forward, and thanks to everyone who’s participating in this amazing learning and growth.
From the Twittersphere:
@lindahollier – shared this great piece she wrote on Filtering
@jschmeling #metathink – I use Twitter as Miemis does – follow lists, people, with topics of interest. The network brings new (or new to me) info. in addition to new info, allows me to think across boundaries, disciplines, new topics, techniques can be applied to my work. twitter allows infusion of my work into the dialog, maybe others pick up, add disability, other topics to their work or thought
@der_cisco The comment I usually hear everywhere by people into Twitter is usually that their quality of reading has increased dramatically. #metathink
killian schaffer said:
For me twitter supplies both content and filtration. i’ve connected with authors of books that i consider thought leaders and made direct requests of Tomi Ahonen (mobile space / mobile advertising) and Wayne Wilson (business modeling using excel) for support and they’ve responded! twitter creates intimacy with the information sources you want or need. additionally, its the easiest way to share info in a collegial environment__sorta reminds me of my time in grad school. twitter is information “grease”
Nuno Raphael Relvão said:
awesome post as always. Although my academic formation is in Architecture I have always been interested in metathinking as well. In regards with social networking and specifically Twitter I agree with what you wrote. I have in wait a post about how Twitter can actually be used as a (albeit temporary) wiki – as people link to sources you can after use in your researches.
I have actively been using Twitter in such a manner as I gather info for my M.Arch thesis. My task is eased as the paper deals closely with social structures on the digitalsphere, but I assume it can be done with other focus themes as well.
I do, as you mention, “target sharing” and the way I have come to do it is by using the expression “fd/” to forward RTs to specific followers/followed that might especially enjoy that RT. In this manner those RTs become global and directed at the same time.
The expression used, “fd/”, is a result of my attempt at creating a lexicon that allows me to better interact with my Twitter contacts such as “v/” for via (used when you are RTing a link but you change the message that goes with it), the common RT (to retweet full tweets), and as stated the “/fd” (to forward some topics specifically to some people).
Another aspect to form closer ties is to get involved with the work that your contacts are conducting, either by providing interesting links (as you pointed) but also by interesting them in business deals or partnership proposals, by RT important messages from them or just helping them out with your skill set in endeavours where they have a lack in that particular issue.
To me it has also been important to keep a low count of followed people as to better filter the info I get feed, while I still interact with everyone even outside of my feed even if ephemerally. I have come to regard this “network weaving” in Twitter as a Design Studio classroom, which for those not acquainted to its dynamics is a space of coop and collab in a collective learning and improving environment.
June Holley said:
Thanks for another thought-provoking post, Venessa! My thinking/practice has been moving in the same directions. The first step towards what you call metathinking (and I’ve been calling group metacognition) is mindfulness, and I’ve recently read two interesting books that look at recent brain research in this area: Mindsight by Daniel Seigel and Your Brain at Work by David Rock. They offer many simple practices to help increase our ability to stand back, watch ourselves in relationship, and act differently than we might.
When we are able to do this, we are more open to different perspectives coming from others, more open to engagement with them — and this seems to create a “field of potential” for breakthroughs. Why does this happen? Because the combination of openness and difference enables this lovely thing called group metacognition — imagine us holding hands and floating up above our current limited thinking. Through our conversation, we notice all kinds of things that we couldn’t see before. And especially, we notice things about our thinking, our relationships, our assumptions, our values and this provokes us to see how else it could be and poooom — breakthroughs!
Of course, network weaving is what creates this juicy field of potential. I’m exploring all that network weaving might mean in practice in my Network Weaver Handbook-in process. Please come to the google doc http://bit.ly/9HLGGt to see the Table of Contents and add what your experience has led you to understand about network weaving.
Venessa Miemis said:
funny you use group metacognition – you ever notice i have a twitter list “metacogs”? those are folks who seem to be doing what we’re talking about. pretty sure you’re in there. 😉
Tom Crowl said:
The concept of ‘social capital’ has more significance than may at first be evident.
I’ve found it helpful to look at civilizations as the product of “social energy”.
Essentially that’s countless decisions (Decision= An Idea + an Action) by individual’s and groups operating within physical conditions.
This has, in turn engendered an interest in the means by which the social energy is stored, allocated and expressed.
New technologies are greatly impacting this. In most ways for the better. Twitter, and facebook, as well as cell phones and instant messaging are all part of this process as well.
My recent focus has been on enormous flaws associated with current money and credit creation as tools for allocation of ‘social energy’. Networking technology has a vital role to play here I believe.
Money, I believe, is more aptly seen as a rather flawed technology for the store and allocation of ’social energy’ rather than as a store of value. However its an inefficient and incomplete mechanism at best…
And is subject to inherent bias in favor of its creators which is difficult, if not impossible to avoid.
So, since bias is inevitable the solution has to lie in democratizing (with important checks and balances) the process. This inherent bias also makes the Fed’s claim of independence ridiculous on its face and is a core problem with the monopoly of central banking. (This doesn’t suggest its elimination, only elimination of its monopoly).
After all… who has the right to create and than allocate YOUR ’social energy’ without your input?
That’s worse than taxation without representation… that’s potentially multi-generational enslavement without having an ounce of input into that allocation of your life’s energy.
The thought process that rationalizes it for the ‘credit creator’ and those most closely benefitting is tied to a problem of scaling biological altruism but that’s a separate essay.
I believe this inherent bias may suggest that more than one type of credit creation may be desirable. For example local currencies geared to local products and services to function alongside one or more global currencies… in an attempt to overcome a ‘proximity’ bias which goes along with a social bias.
This approach can encourage asset-based-community-development and economic and financial resiliency while preserving the advantages of global trade and markets as well.
Again, I’m not an economist but it seems to me these are ideas worth investigating.
A brief post on some of this here:
On Social Energy, Enterprise & Expanding the Technology of Money
I also believe the Individually-controlled / Commons-dedicated Account facilitating the microtransaction in Commons focussed activities (politics and charity) is an essential piece of this puzzle.
Opinion and influence are also aspects of ’social energy’ which money powerfully conveys(though we might wish it weren’t so). Current money technology inhibits the free flow and networking of this energy which distorts opinion markets.
Venessa Miemis said:
thanks tom. you may want to check out the previous post – What Could the Future of Money Look Like? and the 100+ comments. https://emergentbydesign.com/2010/03/09/what-could-the-future-of-money-look-like/.
the passionate folks who debated the topic decided to keep it going over on a wiki – http://emergentbydesign.pbworks.com/ – if you want to join in, let me know and i’ll add you as a writer.
Tom Crowl said:
re the wiki: Absolutely… count me in! I look forward to checking it out!
I’ve benefited immensely from going “upstream” on follows.
When I find a person whose posts I admire, I check to see the people whom that person follows – especially when I see the Tweeps they follow are small in number, relative to those who are following them.
This lets me often make discoveries of many admirable new Tweeps to follow. Then, I go “upstream” from there, repeating the process to find who in the upstreams of the new discoveries I should follow.
This yields great influences on who influences the influencers of the Tweeps I most admire.
Also, I can often get a sense of priorities of influence within these upstream networks. Typically, the first individuals that anyone follows are those of (Twitter-savvy) friends — or of especially admired individuals that they search, find, and follow.
One other aspect of Twitter lets me get a sense quite quickly of how others view an individual that I’m inclined to follow. I go to the lists they create and see if there is a resonance in terms of the tags/categories they deem important when listing others.
More usefully, I also check to see what lists/tags others have assigned to them. This folksonomy helps me quickly appreciate key elements of their publicly-perceived persona – and again, makes it possible to quickly gauge the best prospects to follow.
I also hope you’ll do a post to launch an “Improve Twitter Tuesday”. For example, Twitter has opportunities in my view to rapidly set up an synaptic overlay by –
– letting individuals and tribes easily make pledges to act (contingent offers to coordinate attention, volunteer time or funds) via sites such as Pledgebank.org, and
– introducing a variant of retweeting (“RTa”) that can spread such Requests to Act throughout the social networks one has joined.
(more on this is at http://www.buildership.org/forum/post/974475 )
If these features are introduced and catch fire, Twitter could vastly ease my life. I would be able to ensure that others (whom I’ve come to admire via the socent) “automatically” have an ability to draw on a portion of the resources I can offer to advanced shared aims and values.
When @toughloveforx creates a conditional offer and an RTa for microgrants to help seed a new project for peer learning->publishing, for example, I’d love to chip in and automatically post the RTa to others.
Or if @venessamiemis wants to do an experiment with a reputation-building currency that can enrich EBD;s social capital, I’d love to automatically share her RTa on that as well.
Note to self – preview/proofread better before posting comments.
In the above comment,
>>This yields great influences …
>>This yields great insights on who influences the influencers of the Tweeps I most admire.
I live in the middle of nowhere and work from home as a developer / tech writer. I like it that way but it’s a bit of a vacuum potentially.
My twitter network is the crowd of smart, switched on, interesting developers who are either working at my level or a step (or a leap) ahead.
I use them just as I would a bunch of smart people in the same room as me: as a sounding board.
When I could do A or B, or something else, I twitter the question. Distilling it to 140 characters is a good exercise in itself. The answers I get are better than just ‘Do A’ – they’re more questions. And I make better decisions because of them.
I also use twitter to keep abreast of new thinking / ideas in my field, but it’s the day-to-day concrete making-better-choices stuff that is gold dust.
I follow just about 100 people, and mostly they also follow me. It’s a dialogue, a giant instant pair-programming facility, and a way to remain conscious about my incompetence… stay in the learner’s mind that questions my own decisions rather than blindly stumbling!
Venessa Miemis said:
“a way to remain conscious about my incompetence”
i like that sentiment. remembering that the “stuff i don’t know i don’t know” category is immense tends to keep me humbled.
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Mark Sanford said:
Twitter put me in touch with you, then a reference to Godin, thence to a reference to an author I had never heard of (Pressfield) and a book that is squarely in my topic field, “Break thru the blocks and win inner creative battle” which I have now ordered.
I’ve stated my case before in one of your post about using an inductive thinking model to use twitter to it’s full effectiveness, for me i’ve experienced using this model because it’s the only way i can keep myself sane and still keep my curiousity for information at a level that is not ovoerwhelming and yet still viable and reliable.
This inductive thinking model is first to observe. The initial step when i follow someone is to observe they’re past fifty or so tweets, to see if there are any consistencies in their tweets, if there are, i then tag them accordingly in the tweet deck platform.
Then comes the step of pattern recognition, which breaks down even more the information they are tweeting about. When i see patterns in their tweets, i bring it to a next level of grouping,
Let me use an example, about six months ago i began following many people around the topics of social relationship customer management (scrm), innovation, customer relationship management (crm) co-creation, user experience and so forth, all in all it was about 100 people, which now has been narrowed down to five people.
These five people i call scrm mastermind group, because they are consistent in the pattern of unfolding the topics, almost like being in school and each day i learn something new but it’s information that is nt scattered but methodical.
The end result has been finally having some footing on what scrm is, how to use it, and in depth knowledge on the topic.
Less is more works in these situations but first from the inductive thining model which is…
Observe, recognize patterns, creat a tentative hypothesis and then my theory.
This helps in my line of work because i am an idea person, always sharing ideas and strategies that bring added value. and that added value is in the details.
in six months following these five individuals, i have implemented many ideas based on the knowledge i attained.
I am planning on doing this on other topics of interst which will go thorugh the same process i used to identify and outline my scrm mastermind group.
of my 650 followers only fifty have my full attention and the rest are not tagged, just put to the side and scanned daily to see if anything pops up which does. if i see a consistency in their tweets, theni tag them accordingly.
I like to say i’ve tagged you accordingly.
Also, i eliminate the need to follow other people when i ‘ve found a complimentary connection with a person that i know follow that person, it avoids me to get caught up in more information.
for example you follow people that i don’t because i know if you rt them then it’s in congruence with the information i need/want ffrom you.
Same goes with mindmapping i don’t follow everry person on this topic, i follow one person because he’s been tagged as consistent and reliable.
in the end each day i learn something new and relevant which i then find way to implement that information in everyday daily activites, from ideas i have on an ad campaign i am working on, or how to increse value on customer acquisition, and so forth….
the key here i believe is to make decisive decisions, and i found using a inductive thinking model works for me.
I apreciate getting connected to people, like you, who are multi-connectedly conscious about a larger frame and filling it with content, or making content visible to the world. Being of service retweeting whats relevant to me, I give more importance to following the right sources.
great way of being involved!
thanks for your awareness,
Cole Tucker said:
I began using Twitter with the intention of exploring @mpesce’s concept of hyperintelligence. Since joining, I have noticed a strong tendency towards communities of conversationalists. As a platform, it appears most useful to me in eliciting multi-faceted relationships with some really amazing people; the next generation of pen-pals get born here. Twitter provides a greater stream for the serendipitous than other social media tools I have encountered.
The strategies Venessa has outlined previously, as well as those described by @spirospiliadis, intrigue me. The concept of some tweeters getting subsumed by another, more comprehensive tweeter feels very foreign to me. Looked at straight, the process doesn’t appear qualitatively different than using RSS feeds; the greater interactiveness of twitter makes it sound more depersonalizing to me.
The concept of depersonalization has come up for me a lot, as Venessa brings the challenge of providing more value to our followers. Social media’s turning over the soil from Modernity’s role-defined interactions to relationships really aligns with my own core values. This hearkens back to Venessa’s Puppetmasterpost and the question of what ephemeral value gets lost when one closely orchestrates their online presence.
Ned Kumar said:
To me the biggest power of Twitter or Social Networks has been the “CONNECTEDNESS”. Through the network, one can virutually fly to any corner of the infoworld they want and unleash their imagination, critical thinking, ideas, knowledge, and other outputs to a wide audience (and so also have an impact on the real world by providing output to solve real issues) and on the flip side, feed on a wide variety of rich insights & information to satisfy their intellectual appetite — which they can chew on and then keep repeating the cycle (help others – help yourself).
Humans by nature gravitate to cohorts (in general). The big differencec between the world of today and the pre-socialmedia world is the composition and number of these cohorts. In the past, for most part folks associated with friends from their workplace, their school, a club — the common theme being that there were atmost a few and most of them were localized. Further, the topics of conversation were not very diverse in most cases . Even if someone wanted to talk about an out-there topic, many a times they couldn’t as it was not an easy task to find like-minded folks outside of their cohorts.
The big difference I see now and one that has tremendously benefited me is the ability to form several “cohorts” across the world on a wide variety of subject matter. You can find subject matter experts or subject matter distributors in almost every field out there, and more importantly, irrespective of their title, social status, financial status etc. folks are open to communication and sharing of ideas. This more than anything else has catalyzed the fusion of domains to form outputs of tremendous value (as an example, the cross-breeding of ideas from sociology and anthropology is beginning to benefit the Marketing discipline).
So I end the post with what I started out with 🙂 – The Power of Twitter: CONNECTEDNESS.
Twitter is really an awesome tool to generate some nice traffic for your website, there isn’t enough I can learn about it. I found your blog on google an got a few tricks.
Eric Andersen said:
I fully agree that Twitter is a fantastic tool for harnessing and filtering from our networks – and I cannot think of a better one. Over the past two years I have gradually shifted over from other tools and media (RSS, visiting specific blogs/sites, tech magazines/journals, etc) to almost exclusive use of Twitter now for technology news, trends, opinions, and commentary.
So how have I benefited from this, you ask? In my role as an IT Architect in IBM’s Global Services division, I am typically the senior technical resource on large client projects, and so customers look to me not only to define the system architecture, but for overall technical guidance in a wide range of areas. This of course is a challenging role to play – and in fact one of the most common questions I get from people I mentor is simply, “How do I keep up?” Social media, and Twitter in particular, has become the key to this. Note that this issue probably occurs in most domains where generalists are needed as much as specialists. It just so happens that technology information is rampant on Twitter, which makes it a good starting point.
But as you describe, it’s just the starting point. It’s not easy to leverage Twitter for benefit. In truth it’s really hard. Thus I think it’s certainly worthwhile focusing discussion in this area. Look at the facts: we know that a large percentage of new Twitter users give up, as they are unable to derive value. Why? They can’t find people to follow that will provide them value. The comments from Mark (@openworld) have some interesting thoughts in this area, but there is still so much more that needs to be done.
On the other end of the spectrum, quite a few people I know are following large numbers of people – say, 500 – 2,000 or even more! Now we’re in the area of information overload and the need for filtering as you mention. But for almost everyone, the filter is in the form of time – i.e. the filter is inherent in that they only skim through small groups of tweets at certain times. I think we are just at the beginning of being able to think about how to filter. Twitter lists are a basic step, but a group of people is not necessarily an ideal filter in a specific topic or domain, as most people tend to be multi-faceted. Projects such as Ellerdale and Kosmix are trying to solve filtering issues via semantic analysis at a macro level, and various applications are being developed to try to do this at a micro level as well, e.g. Tweetworks. Personally I tend to be very picky about who I follow on Twitter – and on a daily basis I add 2-3 people and also remove 2-3 people (one of the things I noticed I did again today). This allows me to avoid increasing the overload, while forcing me to think about the value I’m getting out of people I’m following (and whether I should continue following). But additional mechanisms to help with the filtering would certainly make a huge difference as well.
Hope I touched on the questions you were asking, Venessa!
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